Zimbabwe

What's New

  • 14 March 2014

    The Importance of RTI in Corruption fight

    By Zibusiso Dube Dube is the Information Manager at Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA). He writes in his personal capacity. This article first appeared March 3 in Southern Eye. Zimbabwe’s terrible corruption has been laid bare for all to see. Chief executive officer (CEO) of Premier Services Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) Cuthbert Dube allegedly earned […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 16 November 2012

    Zimbabwe Considers Flawed RTI Constitutional Clause

    A proposed constitutional provision on right to information would be too restrictive, according to RTI experts following the process. In particular, the latest draft would guarantee access to information held by a public body only when necessary for the exercise of other citizen rights. Such requirement would require a requester to justify the intended use, […]

    Be Sociable, Share!

freedom of information

Text from the freedominfo.org Global Survey: Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World, by David Banisar (updated July 2006)

The situation in Zimbabwe offers an example of when a FOI law can be a negative force in society. The Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act (AIPPA) was signed by President Mugabe in February 2002. While the title refers to FOI and privacy and does provide for those rights in the text, the rights appear to be dormant. The main provisions of the law give the government extensive powers to control the media and suppress free speech by requiring the registration of journalists and prohibiting the “abuse of free expression.” These powers have been widely abused.

On paper, AIPPA sets out rights and procedures for access that are similar to other FOI laws around the world. The Zimbabwe Government told the African Commission on Human Rights that the procedures were “moulded along the lines of Canada’s laws on the same subject.” There has only been one reported instance of the access to information provision being used by the opposition party.

The right of access may be exercised by any citizen or resident (but not an unregistered media agency or foreign government) to records held by a public body. Under the rules, the body must respond to a request in thirty days. There are exemptions for Cabinet documents and deliberations of local government bodies, advice given to public bodies, client-attorney privilege, law-enforcement proceedings, national security, intergovernmental relations, public safety, commercial information, and privacy. There is an unusual public-interest disclosure provision that allows the government to release information even if there is no request for a variety of reasons, including matters that threaten public order; the prevention, detection or suppression of crime; and national security. The law also includes provisions on access and use of personal information.

The Act created a Media and Information Commission which has mostly been functioning to restrict freedom of expression. Individuals can ask the Commission to review the decisions or actions of an agency. The Commission can conduct inquiries into the Act and order release of documents. Appeals can be made to an administrative court.

The controversial law was opposed by many governments, NGOs, media organizations and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression because of the extreme restrictions it places on freedom of expression. Nearly all independent papers have been shut down and many journalists have also been arrested and jailed under the Act. It was amended again in January 2005 to allow for the imprisonment for two years of journalists who had not registered with the Commission. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has reported that the passage of the Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act in June 2005 further narrowed the space within which journalists could operate. Under the law, Zimbabwean journalists now risk spending 20 years in jail for reporting on certain stories, as the new Act introduced harsher penalties than those provided for under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access Act. In December 2005, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) issued a damning report on the suppression of fundamental rights through misuse of the Act, as well as the Public Order and Security Act and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA). The ACHPR based many of its findings on a report provided by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which argued that the Act “is a repressive piece of legislation enacted primarily to undermine the right to freedom of expression and stifle the exchange of ideas and information”. Subsequently, the Zimbabwean Attorney General advised that the Minster for Information would be reviewing the Act to remove offending sections.

The Official Secrets Act also sets strict limits on the disclosure of government information without permission. Like the AIPPA, it also is used abusively. In January 2005, five officials were arrested under the OSA for breaching the Act by revealing the internal disputes of the ruling Zanu PF party to foreign governments in a case widely seen as an internal power struggle.

[Footnotes available in the full study]

2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results – Zimbabwe

Be Sociable, Share!

News Archive

  • 29 August 2012

    Report Excoriates Zimbabwe Access Environment

    Access to information in Zimbabwe is “sternly restricted” according to a new and comprehensive report that sees some hope in the ongoing development of a new Constitution, but otherwise paints a bleak picture. “The culture of secrecy prevalent in most government departments suggest that access to information is not seen as a right but a […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 9 March 2012

    Zimbabwe Issues Proposals on Media, Information Access

    A draft constitution in Zimbabwe guarantees media freedom and access to information, and protects journalists and their sources of information. “This is a vast improvement compared with the current constitution which does not explicitly provide for freedom of the media and access to information,” according to a statement by Misa-Zimbabwe.  Drafting the constitution could be completed soon, […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 17 July 2002

    REPORT: A Landmark Law Opens Up Post-Apartheid South Africa

    By Mukelani Dimba, Training Consultant, Open Democracy Advice Centre UPDATE – Media Release, 11 OCTOBER 2002 The Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) today released the results of a study that exposes the government for failing to implement a crucial Transparency Law passed over two years ago. A Landmark Law Opens Up Post-Apartheid South Africa Throughout […]

    Be Sociable, Share!

links

LEGAL DOCUMENTS Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) (15 March 2002) Amended by the Access to Information and protection of Privacy Amendment Act (June 2003). ORGANIZATIONS Transparency International Zimbabwe National Constitutional Assembly Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) Media Institute of Southern Africa - Zimbabwe Chapter (MISA) Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) OTHER RESOURCES Analysis of law by African Freedom of Information Centre (2013) International Press Institute, 2004 World Press Freedom Review - Zimbabwe MISA, "So This Is Democracy? State of media freedom in southern Africa 2004" MMPZ, "Information Rights Violations Report, December 2003 - February 2004" MMPZ, "The campaign to silence the private media in Zimbabwe" (2004)

measuring openness

Freedom House, Freedom in the World, 2009 (On scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7, the lowest) Political Rights: 7 Civil Liberties: 6 Status: Not Free Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity Report, 2009 Civil Society, Public Information and Media (rating 1-100): 55 (Very Weak) World Bank, Governance Matters, 2008 (Percentile rank - indicates rank of country among all countries in the world. 0 corresponds to lowest rank and 100 corresponds to highest rank.) 1) Voice and Accountability: 67.8 2) Political Instability and Violence: 41.6 3) Government Effectiveness: 75.4 4) Regulatory Quality: 71.5 5) Rule of Law: 56.0 6) Control of Corruption: 65.2 Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index, 2009 (Relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts and ranges between 10 - highly clean and 0 - highly corrupt.) CPI Score: 4.7